U.S. military sets sites on Ramadi

Friday, December 3, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has set a new goal in Iraq: to seize control of the western city of Ramadi from Sunni insurgents.

U.S. officials said American and Iraqi forces would assault insurgency strongholds in Ramadi, located near the Syrian border. They said the mission would also seek to block the flow of weapons and insurgents from Syria to the Sunni Triangle, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We believe a solution in Ramadi in now obtainable, now that Faluja has been eliminated as a terrorist safe haven," Gen. George Casey, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said. "The whole Al Anbar province is an area of difficulty for the interim government, and we will work very hard to bring the security situation there to the point where they have election in January."

The U.S. operation against Ramadi was expected to be more rapid than the assault on Faluja in November. Officials said the capture of Faluja shattered the headquarters of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq as well as a way-station for Al Qaida-aligned volunteers recruited and trained in Lebanon and Syria.

"We believe we have evidence of over 20 countries having terrorists that have come through Faluja at one time or another," Casey told the Pentagon channel. "So we are fairly satisfied that it was, in fact, the foreign terrorist safe haven that we thought it was."

Officials said the U.S.-led coalition has not yet restored full control over Mosul. They said the main mission was to reconstitute the police and security forces in the northern city.

The coalition plans to impose control over Baghdad, Ramadi and Samara by the Jan. 30, 2005 elections in Iraq, officials said. They said Sunni insurgents were believed to have fled Faluja and relocated in the Baghdad area.

"He [Sunni insurgency movement] has lost his base of operations and logistics," Casey said. "He is unsettled and he's in new areas. We intend to use this window now to keep him on the run, we'll weaken his intimidation campaign and deny him sanctuary. So what you'll see in the next 60 days is a series of operations to enhance security in those three critical regions."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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